Brantley edges county rival Luverne, 14-10
If you play it, they will come.
Thousands of fans from all over the state filled the stands and lined the perimeter of the football field as Luverne took on cross-county rival Brantley last Thursday night in Brantley.
The Class 1A, third-ranked Bulldogs (10-0, 7-0) edged the Class 2A, eighth-ranked Tigers (8-2, 7-0) 14-10 on their home turf.
"I thought our players played hard," Brantley Head Coach David Lowery said. "I thought we stayed after it and kept playing through a lot of different situations. We could have very easily given up a lot of points early in the first half, but I thought our defense hung in there and kept getting after it and making plays."
Despite their offense being held to 144 total yards including only 56 yards on the ground, the Bulldogs' defense managed to spoil many of the Tigers' threatening drives. Lowery said the difference was taking the ball away from Luverne.
"Turnovers were the big key," Lowery said. "They kept having turnovers and shot themselves in the foot at times."
The Tigers fumbled the football three times and all three times they lost possession to Brantley. Junior quarterback Ryan Brown also threw two interceptions in the first quarter.
Brantley only gave up two the ball once, on an interception in the first quarter. The Bulldogs fumbled once, but was able to regain possession.
Luverne jumped out to an early lead when senior place kicker Daniel Brown booted a 35-yard field goal, putting the visitors on top, 3-0.
Daniel Norton ended the Brantley's ensuing drive as he picked off junior quarterback Edgar Walker's pass.
At the end of the first quarter, the Tigers clung to a 3-0 lead.
Brantley took the lead for good with just over nine minutes remaining in the first half when Walker connected with senior running back Devaris Skanes on a 53-yard touchdown reception. Sophomore Marcus Owens' point after kick was true putting the home team up, 7-3.
Turnovers haunted Luverne in the second quarter. The Tigers coughed up the ball two times and had a pass picked off. At the half, the Bulldogs led, 7-3.
After Brantley junior linebacker Scotty Abadilla picked off another Luverne pass, senior receiver Antwuan Foster capped off a seven-play drive by hauling in Walker's four-yard pass. The PAT gave Brantley a 14-3 lead.
The Tigers answered back on their first drive of the fourth quarter when sophomore running back Fred Hawkins plowed through the Bulldogs' defensive front for a two-yard touchdown to cap off a 13-play, 54-yard drive. Daniel Brown's point after kick cut into Brantley's lead, 14-10.
Luverne threatened to take the lead late in the game as the Tigers drove deep into the Bulldogs' territory, but was forced to turn the ball over on downs.
"Turnovers were the difference in the game," Luverne Head Coach Mike Dubose said. "I also thought they out hit us. They won the line of scrimmage offensively and defensively. Skanes is a great player and he made the play that made the difference in the football game. We've got to protect the ball offensively and we've got to take the ball away defensively."
Luverne will play host to long-time rival Georgiana (5-5) in the first round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association's Class 2A state playoffs tomorrow night at Glenn Daniel Stadium.
Brantley will also be host in the first round, as A.L. Johnson (7-3) comes to town, for round one of the Class 1A playoffs. Lowery said the Bulldogs will have to step it up if they want to advance to the next round.
"They're extremely athletic," Lowery said. "We're going to have to mix it up. We're going to have show we can pass early and then we'll be able to run. We're definitely going to have to mix it up."